Written by Dean Batali and Rob Des Hotel
Directed by Bruce Seth Green
It’s another day at Sunnydale High, and Oz has noticed that the eyes of a certain cheerleader trophy follow your movements if you stand in front of it. (Excellent call-back to “Witch,” especially because Amy will be in the next episode.) Willow finds him to ask if he liked their movie date the night before. They are cute and dorky, and Willow panics and goes to join Buffy before her nervousness puts a halt to all conversation.
Larry, the jock who bullied Xander in “Halloween,” sees Willow and Buffy walking away together and he comes over to make some lewd remarks about them to Oz. Larry is just generally being a pervy douche. He questions Oz about why he’s dating a junior. (Wait, so does that mean Larry is a senior? Then why is he still there in S3?) Oz tries to use witty evasions to get past Larry’s gross questions about his and Willow’s relationship, but he’s clearly very uncomfortable.
That conversation transitions to Buffy and Willow. Willow is kind of upset that she and Oz haven’t even kissed yet. (Is it just me, or does a week or two after they’ve started dating seem a little early to be getting upset about that? Would she be this impatient if both of her friends weren’t majorly passing her up in the physical relationship department?) She definitely isn’t just spending time with Oz to get back at Xander now. She really likes him and wants their relationship to progress. It occurs to Willow that this might be a bad time to talk about boyfriend stuff with Buffy. Willow is also still not a fan of Xander/Cordelia.
…And Xander is not a fan of Willow/Oz. What’s going on? He breaks apart from a snog session with Cordelia in her car at make-out point to complain about Oz. (Uggggh. Is he doing that thing where now that the girl he never had a crush on is dating someone else, he suddenly changes his mind? No, go back to “Innocence” Xander. That was a better Xander.) Cordelia is very indignant that Xander is always so focused on the other two girls in his life. She demands his attention and they keep kissing.
Alas, it is a full moon, and there is a big furry thing watching them in the car. Xander hears a noise and stops kissing Cordy again. She’s getting more and more annoyed. But he wasn’t imagining things! A furry arm punches through the convertible roof and tries to slash at them with claws. They manage to drive away, and it falls off the car.
The next day at school, the Scoobies are examining the shredded car roof. They’re thinking werewolf (except for Cordelia, who is thinking about the car). Giles has found accounts of other “wild dog” attacks around town, so it all seems to line up. Willow points out that last night was only the night before the full moon. Tonight is the actual full moon. So if it’s a werewolf, they’re not done with it yet. Giles is psyched to have a reason to research werewolves.
In gym class, it’s time to learn self-defense! Oz is cute with Willow and Xander is all jealous again. (Pardon me while I roll my eyes.) Larry now has a bandage on his arm from a nasty dog bite the previous week (he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt before, so we couldn’t see it then). Oz sympathizes; his kid cousin bit him on the finger the other day, and that’s totally the same thing as having to get thirty-nine stitches. Buffy and a timid girl, Theresa, are in a group with Larry for the self-defense lesson. Willow reminds Buffy that she can’t show off her Slayer strength here. Buffy makes it through one gross comment from Larry before she decides it’s worth the risk, and she throws him over her shoulder like he weighs nothing. Ha!
In the library, it’s exposition time! Turns out, the full moon brings out people’s animal sides. A werewolf is just the extreme version of that. Xander asks if this calls for silver bullets, and Giles says no. The werewolf is still a person 27 days out of the month. No killing.
That night, Buffy and Giles are patrolling makeout point for werewolves. Buffy has observed a lot of good high school relationship gossip material (Including something involving an Owen, who is apparently making out with a girl other than his girlfriend. Is this Owen from “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date”? I’m gonna say yes, just because it would be cool.) but no werewolves.
Buffy continues patrolling and suddenly gets hauled up in a net! A guy with a rifle shows up. Giles comes running when Buffy yells. Rifle guy, whose name is Cain, lets her down. Then he makes gross comments about Buffy and Giles being there at makeout point for makeout reasons. Ewwwwww. Cain is also hunting the werewolf, and he finds it hilarious that a middle-aged Brit and a tiny blonde girl think they’ll do better than him. He’s killed eleven werewolves so far. He shoots them, sells their pelts, and keeps their teeth as trophies. So he’s basically horrible. Cain tells them werewolves are attracted to excitement and sexual heat. Buffy pretends she doesn’t know where to find any of that in Sunnydale, but she definitely has an idea. Once Cain leaves them alone, she and Giles head off the other way.
Theresa from the self-defense class is heading home when she starts feeling like she’s being followed. There’s also distant growling. She breaks into a run and collides with…Angelus! Uh-oh. He plays the good guy and offers to walk her home.
At the Bronze, an even nerdier band than usual is playing. Cordelia is complaining to Willow about Xander being more focused on Buffy and Willow than her. Willow finds this ironic, but is still willing to commiserate because things with Oz aren’t going how she wants them either. Oh hey the werewolf is here, and it’s heading straight for Willow! (Interesting…) Everyone in the club panics and goes running. Willow finds Buffy just as she and Giles pull up. Buffy runs inside to look for the werewolf, armed with a bunch of chains to tie it up. She finds it, but it escapes out a window before she can subdue it. Cain arrives, and he’s extremely disdainful (more because Buffy is a woman than because she didn’t capture the wolf).
The werewolf continues to prowl outside, and it finds a trail of blood, which leads to a dead Theresa and a vampface Angelus. The two predators growl at each other, but don’t fight.
Buffy and Giles have continued their search for the werewolf, but found nothing. They hear on the radio about Theresa’s death. They think she was killed by the werewolf, and Buffy is already blaming herself for failing to capture the werewolf. It’s sunrise now, though, so they’ll have to wait to continue the search until the next night.
In the forest, the werewolf is having a nap. As the sun rises, it transforms back into human form. It’s Oz! He takes this discovery remarkably in stride. Then he goes home to call his aunt about his cousin Jordy, the one who bit him. He is a werewolf! It seems that this super chill attitude he’s got going on is a family trait.
At school, Oz is a bit tense. He reaches the library just in time to hear Buffy lamenting to the other Scoobies that she didn’t kill the werewolf. They tell Oz about Theresa’s death. Oz is low-key wracked with guilt, but since Buffy’s talking about killing the werewolf now, he doesn’t tell them it’s him. Xander thinks he’ll be able to find the werewolf because he too knows what it’s like to be taken over by animal instincts, ‘cause of his hyena possession. Buffy reminds him that he said he didn’t remember anything about that, and he tries to laugh his way out of an awkward corner. He very dorkily tries to put himself inside the werewolf’s head. While staring at Oz, he says he’s figured it out! Oz is freaked. But Xander’s talking about Larry. Oz doesn’t really want them to interrogate the wrong guy, but he also doesn’t want to get killed, so his protests are minimal. Willow tries to comfort Oz about Theresa dying (because they were friends, I guess?), and she invites him to do late night research with her. He says he can’t and leaves, and Willow feels hurt and abandoned.
In the boys’ locker room, Xander confronts Larry. Huh, this is weird. Larry isn’t the werewolf, but he definitely has a secret. Xander doesn’t realize that it isn’t the werewolf secret, and Larry doesn’t realize Xander doesn’t actually know his secret. Which is that he’s gay. They keep talking at cross-purposes until Larry says it. Xander is rather more freaked out than if Larry had been the werewolf, partly because Larry is now under the impression that Xander is also gay.
Buffy and Willow are still looking for werewolf suspects. Willow is really bummed about Oz deserting her. Buffy recommends that Willow make the first move. Willow is annoyed that boys can’t just be obvious, like how little boys punch the girls they like on the arm. Xander comes up and punches Buffy on the arm, and then Willow leaves to help Cordelia with her homework. Xander’s a little worried about Willow and Cordelia hanging out so much. Buffy asks about Xander’s Larry investigation, and Xander is rather touchy about it. He’s not the werewolf. Buffy realizes that the reports of Theresa’s death didn’t mention that she was mauled, so she and Xander go to the funeral home to have a look at the body. She was killed by a vampire.
And now she is a vampire! She jumps out of her coffin and tackles Buffy. Buffy gets the upper hand, but Theresa tells her Angel sent her. This throws Buffy so badly that Theresa pins her again, but Xander stakes her. This is even worse than if the werewolf had killed Theresa. Xander helps Buffy up and she hugs him. He’s very sweet and comforting, and if you squint, it almost looks like they could’ve kissed. Buffy leaves, and Xander laments the insanity of his love life.
Cain is making silver bullets! With…a Bunsen burner. Um. A single Bunsen burner is not hot enough to do that, even if you’re using it correctly. He has the flame burning tall and yellow instead of a short blue cone, which makes it entirely useless. Moron.
After he pours the silver into the mold, he pops it open and just pulls it out with his bare fingers. How has this idiot succeeded in killing eleven werewolves? Realistically, he would’ve lost all his fingers by now, just from making his ammo.
Oz has acquired a set of iron manacles, and as the moon rises, he’s trying to lock himself up...in his living room. I guess his parents aren't home. Willow arrives and pounds on his door until he opens it. Oz tries to send her away, but she’s in rant mode and is not being rational. Oz tells her he’s going through a lot. She’s annoyed, until she sees the chains on his table. But by then it’s too late. He starts transforming. Willow is still being slow on the uptake. Werewolf Oz pops up from behind the couch and she screams and runs. He chases her up the street. She manages to get over a fence and hit him with a garbage can before he can come after her.
In his van, Cain hears the wolf howling. At the library, Giles is getting all set with what looks like a pretty dangerous rifle, and Buffy arrives to tell him about Theresa. Wolf Oz catches up to Willow in some foresty area, but something else distracts him and he runs off in another direction. Willow runs into the library and tells them Oz is the werewolf. Turns out that scary rifle is just a tranquilizer gun.
The thing that distracted Oz was a pile of meat left by Cain, who is standing there ready to shoot him. Buffy kicks him and makes him miss. Then she fights the Oz-wolf. Giles can’t get a shot with the tranquilizer gun, and the wolf throws Buffy into him. Willow grabs the gun and shoots Oz right in the chest. He collapses. Cain thinks they’re a bunch of losers, until Buffy bends the barrel of his rifle with her bare hands and tosses it back to him. He leaves. Oz is going to be sore, maybe, but fine.
The next day at school, Xander thinks everything’s going to be so weird now. Buffy agrees, but Oz is still a human most of the time, so it’ll be okay. Xander was actually talking about Larry, but he pretends he was otherwise. Larry, it turns out, seems rather nice and even-keeled now. Also, very grateful to Xander, who is still rather panicky about it. Buffy thinks things will be hard now for Willow and Oz, and Xander goes on a rant about their relationship that very closely resembles his rant about Buffy and Angel’s relationship in “Surprise.” FIGURE OUT WHO YOU LIKE, XANDER.
Willow finds Oz in the courtyard. The plan now is for him to lock himself up every full moon. She’s a little sad that he didn’t tell her he’s a werewolf beforehand. He thinks that now he should probably stay away from her, but she disagrees! He’s surprised that she still likes him, and now that he knows this, he’s perfectly willing to keep going out with her. She leaves, beaming, and he watches her go, smiling. But then she comes back and kisses him! Willow kissage. Oz is in love.
I love “Phases” for the cuteness of Willow and Oz. Basically, anything that has Willow/Oz cuteness in it is fine by me. All of the different plotlines in this episode have something to do with sex. Or with sexism. We have Cain, whose every line is sexist, insinuating garbage, and who thinks women are helpless and incompetent. He’s also a poacher and kind of a murderer, just so there’s absolutely nothing to like about him. This is certainly not a very nuanced or interesting character. We have Larry, who is a complete sexist pig—until he comes out as gay, that is, at which point he instantly turns into a sweet gentleman? I’m pretty sure that kind of turnaround takes a lot more time and introspection than that. We have Willow and Cordelia being completely confused about the way their guys are acting, which is an amusing reversal of the common TV thing where guys commiserate about how confusing women are. (Girls do not have a monopoly on mystery, TV writers. Guys make just as little sense as we do.) And we have Xander getting a little jumpier than the situation warrants when he finds out Larry is gay and Larry thinks he’s gay. In a twist on the usual expectations for teen behavior, the girls are the ones who want to get more physical while the guys have other things on their mind. The fact that Plot A is about a werewolf only loosely connects to this any of this. Werewolves are traditionally all about passion, but Oz is such a mellow guy and the werewolf design is so unexpressive and silly that it doesn’t seem to fit together with what the rest of the episode is doing.
Buffy is the character least involved in this story. The whole episode is about guys, girls, and hormones, but that ship has already sailed for her, and she’s dealing with the aftermath. She’s still miserable about Angelus, and he’s obviously keen to keep her that way, since he sends a freshly minted vampire after her, in the shape of a girl she was friendly with. Even before vamp Theresa wakes up and attacks her, she’s already showing some of the signs of how Angel’s transformation has affected her. When Giles says that werewolves have “no conscience” and are “predatory and aggressive,” she draws an immediate parallel to Angelus and then, somewhat unfairly, expands it to encompass men in general. It strikes me as very admirable that, even in the midst of her deep emotional hurt, she can still offer support to Willow. She doesn’t want her friends to be miserable.
Willow and Oz are dating, and their relationship continues to be the most precious thing on the entire planet. It’s almost enough to serve as a consolation prize for losing Buffy/Angel. We learn that patience is not one of Willow’s virtues. I’m not sure we’ve really seen that before, but we will definitely see it again. I wouldn’t call her approach to her crush with Xander patient. That was more an issue of procrastination due to fear of rejection. We also learn that Oz isn’t just monosyllabic; he’s terrible at communicating when there’s a problem. This, unfortunately, is also something we will see again. He is not good at handling his issues by himself, and he never really overcomes this flaw.
Xander and Cordelia are really dating now! So far, we’re only seeing how that affects Xander’s social group. The other side will come soon. In “Innocence,” Xander realized that he was hurting Cordy by focusing so hard on Buffy and/or Willow, but now he’s backslid a bit. He’s developing a pattern of possessiveness regarding Buffy and Willow, with is neither fair nor logical. And the whole thing with Xander and Larry wasn’t handled very well. Not Larry’s sudden personality 180°, and not Xander’s intense horror at the thought that Larry thinks he’s gay (and maybe other people will also think that). I think it might’ve been more effective if Larry had actually beat Xander up during that initial confrontation, just to keep him quiet. Then, after realizing what he’s done, he’d feel guilty and eventually apologize. Xander would be more upset about the pummeling than Larry being gay, but they might have a good conversation about it at the end of the episode when Larry apologizes, and maybe Larry would make another sexist pig comment, but look like he feels guilty about that too. It would be a start to no longer being a bullying jerk, which is all one episode really has time for. Each time Larry showed up after that could indicate that his behavior is gradually improving. AND THEN MAYBE HE AND XANDER COULD’VE BECOME FRIENDS. (Sorry. Still not over the fact that Xander never has another male friend after Jesse.)
Giles doesn’t get to do a ton in this episode except be British, be a thoroughly excited Plot A geek, and react to the grossness of Cain. I feel like another missed opportunity was not letting Giles punch Cain in the face. His scenes with Buffy don’t involve any deep conversations, but I do like the quiet solidarity of him working with her. Whenever she flares up with guilt about Theresa or Angelus, he offers bracing words of comfort and just helps her get through it. For the first time, I’m completely fine with there being zero mention of Jenny. Giles’s focus is entirely on Buffy and what she needs. If he’s hurting about Jenny, he’s pushing it to the back of his mind right now.
“That’s great, Larry. You’ve really mastered the single-entendre.”
“So, Oz, man, what’s up with that? Dating a junior? Oh, let me guess, that innocent schoolgirl thing is just an act.”
“Yeah, she’s actually an evil mastermind. It’s fun.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.